Sermon: The Epiphany RCL B

Photo by Dieter K on Unsplash

There are far too many quotes in this to call it a sermon, but I was chasing a thought and wanted to share the journey with you.

As we read this Gospel of the Epiphany, we see these two great contrasting approaches to this child lying in a manger. With Herod, there is fear, special advisors, secret meetings, plots, treachery. With Jesus, there is a star for all to see and leading the way, fulfillment of prophecy, homes open and invitations to enter, honor, worship, joy, and more. A king who is terrified and a baby (who is also a king) who welcomes all. That wonderful quote of Dietrich Bonhoeffer proves itself true: “For the great and powerful of this world, there are only two places in which their courage fails them, of which they are afraid deep down in their souls, from which they shy away. These are the manger and the cross of Jesus Christ. No powerful person dares to approach the manger, and this even includes King Herod. For this is where thrones shake, the mighty fall, the prominent perish, because God is with the lowly. Here the rich come to nothing, because God is with the poor and hungry, but the rich and satisfied he sends away empty. Before Mary, the maid, before the manger of Christ, before God in lowliness, the powerful come to naught; they have no right, no hope; they are judged.”

As we’ve noted a few times these past couple of weeks, this is the way all through Jesus’ life, even on his last day. When they came to arrest him in the Garden of Gethsemane: there was fear, anger, they came at night and in secret. Jesus response, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs?  When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” However, “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.” And so it was.

These two contrasting approaches led me to the Psalm we had a little while back: Psalm 2. You can hear the sarcasm in the Psalmist’s voice as he asks his question and declares the Lord’s response:

Why do the nations rage
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
    and the rulers take counsel together,
    against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
    and cast away their cords from us.”
He who sits in the heavens laughs;
    the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
    and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King
    on Zion, my holy hill.”

God set the King, His Son, Jesus, on the throne of the Cross atop a hill outside of Jerusalem. In doing so, Jesus conquered the enemy of us all and gave us life. Then, following the resurrection and the ascension, God set His Son, Jesus, on the throne at His right hand. In time, “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.”

We know all this, yet even today, we still ask the Psalmist’s question:

Why do the nations rage
    and the peoples plot in vain?

The answer lies in Herod’s attitude and Bonhoeffer’s quote: fear. Fear in knowing that they are wrong, but unwilling to change. Fear in giving up themselves and their pride and turning to God. Fear in sacrifice, believing they will lose it all. Fear of so many things. Yet, if like the the Magi, we will enter into the house of God and along with Mary, kneel before this child, giving him our very best gifts, then we will discover the joy and peace and life that he has always desired to give us. Do not be afraid. As the Psalmist also says,

I sought the Lord, and he answered me
    and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
    and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
    and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps
    around those who fear him, and delivers them.

Amen.

2 Replies to “Sermon: The Epiphany RCL B”

  1. How very prophetic! these comments were written and preached before the Capitol Riot. God has good staff work!

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